Teacher Bryan Steinberg: I quit
After eight years in the Philadelphia School District, I have come to the conclusion that teaching is a wonderful and noble profession, but the lack of respect for its craft by our local, state, and federal politicians will force me to quit my job as a teacher in June.
I never thought I would become a rich man teaching high school, but I also never thought that I would be a near-destitute peasant eight years later. The money owed and promised to me five years ago is over $20,000, under our collective bargaining agreement, but I will not sacrifice my dignity to an employer that is slowly and methodically starving its teachers into attrition.
Not having a raise in five years is not how I imagined my life, and I would never subject a significant other or my future children to this constant state of financial anxiety and distress. Fortunately for me, I have no family to look after, so I can pack my bags and say adios to a district whose sadistic and obtuse treatment to their educators and employees is insane.
Many of my colleagues cannot leave because their families depend on what little income they make and the generous benefits that they can cling onto for security from catastrophic situations. However, benefits do not give us the ability to pay bills that stuff our mailboxes every month, therefore many of my colleagues have little or no disposable income, they live paycheck to paycheck, they cannot go on vacations, they take up second and third jobs during the school year, and are basically treated like expendable cattle.
But hey, teachers cannot strike in Philadelphia, so what leverage do we have besides putting on pathetic and sometimes satisfying charades to gain public sympathy and shame the school district. There’s one lesson I learned quickly this year, the district has no shame, no soul, or no reason to fix the infrastructure of this district. This begs the question, why would a college graduate that’s $30,000 to $100,000 in debt want to teach for the Philadelphia School District? If there is currently no contract, how can the District respect future employees?
Act 46, a law passed by the state legislature in 1998, mandates that teachers cannot strike in Philadelphia or we potentially lose our teaching certifications in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is the only district in Pennsylvania where teachers are unable to strike. The legislature around that time also authorized the creation of charter schools, so it is clear to me that Superintendent William Hite and the School Reform Commission were brought in here to further destabilize public schools and privatize the district, and act as a lapdog for corporations to invest in expanding charter schools in low-income neighborhoods.
Recent college graduates with an education degree should reevaluate and rethink your plans to teach in the Philadelphia School District, because if they betrayed my sense of financial security by breaking numerous contractual promises every year, what do you think will happen to you in a couple years when most of you will want to achieve some life goals, such as buying a car, mortgaging a house, getting married or possibly having children?
Please do not make the same mistakes as I did eight years ago. Teach somewhere that respects and advances this profession, not this corporate experiment we call the Philadelphia School District. I’m thankful for having amazing students and coworkers at Rush, but the District, the SRC and Superintendent Hite lost all credibility with me between their attempted cancellation of our contract, the continued expansion of charters, and what I see as misspending of taxpayer dollars. I wanted to stay for 35 years, but after eight years, I refuse to be misled and mistreated anymore!